Strait of Messina

The Strait of Messina (Italian: Stretto di Messina, Sicilian: Strittu di Missina) is a narrow strait between the eastern tip of Sicily (Punta del Faro) and the western tip of Calabria (Punta Pezzo) in Southern Italy. It connects the Tyrrhenian Sea to the north with the Ionian Sea to the south, within the central Mediterranean. At its narrowest point, between Torre Faro and Villa San Giovanni, it is 3.1 km (1.9 mi) wide. At the city of Messina, it is 5.1 km (3.2 mi) wide. The strait's maximum depth is about 250 m (820 ft).

Strait of Messina
Satellite photo of the Strait of Messina with names. NASA image.
Strait of Messina is located in Sicily
Strait of Messina
Strait of Messina
Strait of Messina is located in Calabria
Strait of Messina
Strait of Messina
Strait of Messina is located in Italy
Strait of Messina
Strait of Messina
Strait of Messina is located in Mediterranean
Strait of Messina
Strait of Messina
LocationTyrrhenian SeaIonian Sea
Coordinates38°14′45″N 15°37′57″E / 38.24583°N 15.63250°E / 38.24583; 15.63250Coordinates: 38°14′45″N 15°37′57″E / 38.24583°N 15.63250°E / 38.24583; 15.63250
Native nameStretto di Messina (Italian)
Basin countriesItaly
Min. width3.1 km (1.9 mi)
SettlementsMessina, Villa San Giovanni, Reggio Calabria, Scilla, Calabria

The strait has strong tidal currents that create a unique marine ecosystem.[1] A natural whirlpool in the northern portion of the strait has been linked to the Greek legend of Scylla and Charybdis.[2] In some circumstances, the mirage of Fata Morgana can be observed when looking at Sicily from Calabria. With its bottleneck shape, it is also a compulsory point of transit in the migration of many bird species.

In 1957, a 220 kV overhead power line was built across the Strait of Messina. Its pylons are among the highest in the world. This power line has since been replaced by a submarine power cable, but the pylons remain and are protected as historical monuments (see Pylons of Messina).

Bird migrationEdit

The strait seen from Mount Dinnammare, Peloritani

The Strait of Messina is a focal point in the migrations of birds every year, who mainly cross the strait to reach their breeding grounds in northern Europe. Due to this form of bottleneck more than 300 species are recorded in the area, which is a major European hot spot for raptors, with a record of 35.000 in a spring.[3]

Among them the European honey buzzard and the marsh harrier are the most frequent, species like Bonelli's eagle and Egyptian vulture are less frequent but regular. In the coastal salt lakes of the Strait of Messina species like glossy ibis, flamingos and black-winged stilt stop to rest. The site is also favorable for observing storks. The Monte Dinnammare and the other Peloritani mountains overlooking the Strait are a natural theatre for birdwatching.

Marine lifeEdit

Due to its unique hydrogeological conditions[further explanation needed] the Strait of Messina has high levels of biodiversity and multiple endemic species. In its waters there is a strong presence of deep sea fish like the Sloane's viperfish which, due to the particular and peculiar currents of the strait, are occasionally found stranded on the shore at sunrise. The strait is also an important point of migration of many species of fish in the Mediterranean Sea.


Strait of Messina and the Messina panorama as viewed from the ferry

A ferry service connects Messina on Sicily with the mainland at Villa San Giovanni, which lies several kilometers north of the large city of Reggio Calabria; the ferries hold the cars (carriages) of the mainline train service between Palermo and Naples. There is also a hydrofoil service between Messina and Reggio Calabria.

For decades, the possibility of building a bridge across the Messina Strait has been under discussion. In 2006, under Prime Minister Romano Prodi the project was cancelled.[4] On 6 March 2009, however, as part of a massive new public works program, Silvio Berlusconi's government announced that plans to construct the Messina Bridge had been fully revived, pledging €1.3 billion as a contribution to its estimated cost of €6.1 billion[5] Some 3.3 km long and 60 m wide, the bridge would be supported by two 382 m pillars, each higher than the Empire State Building, and accommodate six freeway lanes, a railway (for up to 200 trains a day), and two walkways.

Supporters perceive the bridge as an opportunity for job creation and potential for an increase in tourism to the island. Opponents see it as an ecological disaster, a structure at risk due to especially strong winds and earthquakes (the area having an intense seismic record), and a potential increase in Sicilian and Calabrian organized crime. Berlusconi claimed in 2009 that work would be completed by 2016 although in February 2013, the project was cancelled again.[6]

The strait seen from the hill of "Pentimele", near Reggio Calabria. In the distance is the snow-covered volcano Mount Etna.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: TheSanti63 (25 August 2010), Correnti nello Stretto di Messina
  2. ^ Andrews, Tamra (2000). Dictionary of Nature Myths: Legends of the Earth, Sea, and Sky. Oxford University Press. p. 171. ISBN 978-0-19-513677-7. Retrieved 25 May 2016.
  3. ^ Corso, Andrea. "European Birding Hot Spot: The Strait of Messina, southern Italy".
  4. ^ "Italy drops Sicily bridge plans". BBC News. 12 October 2006.
  5. ^ Italy revives Sicily bridge plan from BBC News. Retrieved 8 March 2009.
  6. ^ Sicily to get longest bridge from TimesOnline. Retrieved 8 March 2009.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit